Following the passing of the Coronavirus Act, the Government has now provided further information on the new measures which have been brought in regarding possession cases during the current pandemic. These measures have been introduced in order to ensure that no tenant in either social or private accommodation will be evicted from their home as a result of being unable to pay their rent during the pandemic. In short, it has been confirmed that possession cases are now suspended for a period of 3 months.
On 26th March 2020, The Coronavirus Act brought into Law the requirement that if a landlord intends to seek possession of their property (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) they will have to allow their tenants a minimum of 3 months’ notice. This means for example that even a Section 8 Notice served under Ground 8 of The Housing Act 1988 for rent arrears will need to give the minimum 3 months’ notice rather than the usual 2 weeks. Landlords will not be able to begin the court process until after this 3-month period has expired. This extended notice period will apply until 30th September 2020. The protection covers most tenancies in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds for evictions. This includes tenancies regulated by the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1988 and the Housing Act 1996.
On 27th March 2020, following a decision by the Master of the Rolls, the Right Honorable Sir Terence Etheron with the Lord Chancellor’s agreement, the Courts in England & Wales have suspended all ongoing housing possession actions. This means that cases which have been issued at court, and those yet to be issued, cannot progress to the stage where a tenant could be evicted. This suspension will initially last for 3 months, but this could be extended if required. The result will, we believe, be that any new possession proceedings issued will be automatically stayed or adjourned until the end of the 3 month period. These measures are designed to protect all private and social tenants, as well as home owners with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales. Whilst there was initially some confusion as to whether or not the measures being brought in would include Accelerated Possession Proceedings brought under Section 21, it has now been clarified that they are also included.
Tenants are still liable to pay rent and should do so as usual. If however they face financial hardship and are struggling to pay, support is available through the various schemes announced by the Government over the last few days. Support is also available for landlords in some circumstances as they are able to apply for a 3-month mortgage holiday on buy-to-let mortgages.
The Government and the Courts hope that the new rules along with the support which is available will encourage tenants and landlords to work together to resolve problems with rental payments caused as a result of the pandemic.
The Courts are also working with the Master of Rolls to strengthen the Social Housing Pre-action Protocol requirements in relation to rent arrears and are looking to extend elements of the Protocol to the private rented sector in order to provide the opportunity and platform for landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen.
The ultimate aim of the Government through these extraordinary times is to try to facilitate and maintain a positive partnership between landlords and tenants and bring in measures to support, both landlord’s and tenants, suffering financial hardship as a result of the unique difficulties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
We at Burnetts are here to support Landlords throughout this period. For further assistance please contact Rob Winder or Laura Thompson on 01228 552222.